2021 Optimist Senior Survey Demonstrates the Impacts of Covid-19

2021 Optimist Senior Survey Demonstrates the Impacts of Covid-19

To view all of the data compiled in the 2021 Senior Survey click below:


According to the 2021 Optimist Senior Survey, 41% of seniors have had their plans for the future altered by Covid. Many of these plans were college related as 1 in 10 seniors will not be enrolling next year, the largest percentage in at least the last five years. This statistic surprised Pioneer senior Mae Veidlinger who said, “Personally I am the most eager I have been to learn after not being mentally stimulated for the past year and a half.” Additionally, the number of Pioneer students who have been diagnosed with and treated for a mental illness climbed yet again this year to 28%, 8% above the national average. This may be attributable to the isolation that the pandemic has caused for some. Another byproduct of the isolation is that over 65% of Pioneer seniors are still virgins, which is an 18% increase from 2019. However, the time away from the world has allowed more students to appreciate how far they have come in their time at school as 95% say that they are a better person now than before they entered Pioneer. This is 10% more than the class of 2019. Pioneer senior Charlie Clynes believes that there is nuance to this number though, saying, “I have to wonder how many think they’ve bettered themselves since quarantine began—I would guess it’s far fewer.”

Virtual schooling was an adjustment for most students, but perhaps the most significant change in seniors’ final year was the opportunity for cheating. Prior to this year, only 6% of seniors said they cheated “whenever possible”, but in 2021 that number was multiplied by a factor of five to a whopping 31%. Furthermore, the students who claimed they had “never” cheated prior to this year (30%) were practically cut in half (16%). Interestingly though, this cheating did not occur on essay writing as the percentage of students who plagiarized an assignment dipped from 22% in 2019 to only 8% this year. Students may feel the need to cheat due to the increase in homework that has come along with online school. In 2019, 59% of seniors said they spent 5 or more hours a week on homework, but this year 71% can say the same. Having gone through the era of Zoom school Clynes agrees with many of these trends. “Honestly, it’s hard to be surprised by most of these statistics. The pandemic has completely changed the way we live,” he said.

Many of the demographic trends that can be traced throughout the years of senior surveys exploded with the class of 2021 as well. Most notably, the number of seniors who identify as LGBTQ+ doubled from 20% in 2019 to 40% in 2021. Furthermore, the percentage of non-binary students jumped from 1% to 5%. A similar phenomenon can be seen in the number of students who do not subscribe to a religion. Over the past decade the number of students who believed in the existence of God decreased by a couple of percentage points, but in 2021 it plummeted from 50% to only 32%. Finally, this year, instead of asking whether seniors were either liberal or conservative we opted for a five point spectrum of political opinion ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative”. In 2019, 24% of seniors said they held conservative beliefs, but in 2021 less than 4% identified as “conservative” or “very conservative.” This is a massive shift from previous years, but taking into consideration that another 22% of the class of 2021 considers themselves “centrist” it would stand to reason that many of the “conservatives” from previous years felt that they were right-leaning when compared to “very liberal” classmates. 

More importantly than all of this data though, is that readers of The Optimist are up 8% from two years ago, so to the 3 out of 4 of you who have been readers, we appreciate your support and wish you all good luck in whatever the post-coronavirus world looks like.